Skip to main content

tv   Charlie Rose  WHUT  September 24, 2009 6:00am-7:00am EDT

6:00 am
6:01 am
6:02 am
>> rose: welcome to the broadcast. tonight, a conversation with the prime minister of the palestinian authority, salam fayyad, one of the principal players in any effort to find peace in the middle east. >> we undertook to do certain things the israelis undertook to do certain things. it's about time that we started to see deliverables. we tried to do the best we could certainly the beginning of 2007
6:03 am
and we have come a long way in implementing our obligations which we r.o.v. around enhancing our capacity to govern ourselves in all areas of governance, including special security. on the israeli side, i regreat to tell you that none of those obligations have been fulfilled, beginning with freeze of settlements, but also including such important actions like stopping incursions on areas under our control it is very important for us to begin to see action. >> rose: we continue this evening with rich cohen and his new book "israel is real." >> israelis now have to look at the situation realistically and sort of say what's the worst situation? and the worst situation is for israel is no israel. and how do we avoid that? the way to avoid that, i think, is to disentangle the israeli population from the muslim
6:04 am
population. the jewish population, and sort of separate themselves and that's what sharon was doing. and the problem now is a leader strong enough to face up plitly to his own situation with the settlers and everything because ultimately-- i'm not the first foreign say it-- the settlements endanger israel and corrode israel and make israel lose the original mission, which was never about land, you know? it was about people. and about saving jews and letting jews have full lives. >> rose: a programming note, our conversation with lebron james and christopher bellman will be seen at a later time this week. tonight, palestine and israel, looking for new ideas. next.
6:05 am
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: salam fayyad is here. he had been prime minister of the palestinian national authority since 2007. formerly a respected economist at the world bank, he's focused on delivering security and services to palestinians. he has brought international standards to public finance and the west bank has seen impressive economic growth. according to the i.m.f., its economy could grow by 7% this year, two percentage points higher than expected. he's also improved law enforcement and security, leading to the lifting of some
6:06 am
israeli check points. the "new york times" columnist in tom freedman has called his pragmatic approach the most exciting new idea in arab governance ever. the prime minister is in new york with the palestinian delegation for the opening of the united nations general assembly. earlier today, president obama met privately with israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu and palestinian president mahmoud abbas. before he went into three-way talks with the two leaders, he spoke sternly about the urgency of resuming peace talks. >> simply put, it is past time to talk about starting negotiations, it is time to move forward. it is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that's necessary to achieve our goals. permanent status of negotiations must begin and begin soon. and more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed. and so my message to these two leaders is clear: despite all the obstacles, despite all the
6:07 am
history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward. we have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of israelis and palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering. we cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back. >> rose: i am pleased to have prime minister fayyad back on this program. welcome. >> pleasure. >> rose: i appreciate you being here very much. and you say to the president of the united states? >> i think he has it right. he said two things in this clip and, by the way, i thank you for giving me the opportunity to see what he said about us because i was in another meeting at the time, the trilateral meeting was taking place. he said that negotiations must begin, something which we very much need to see happen. but he also said we must give them maximum chance for success. you know, focusing on the
6:08 am
requirements for success, to ensure that actually those negotiations would deliver. they would lead to the deliverables that we have been looking for, which is to end the occupation and have an independent viable palestinian state emerge alongside the state of israel. >> rose: what is the power and the leverage this president has? >> we need that political process for sure which the president of the united states was just talking about. now... but in addition, we need to actually get on with it. not only in connection with the political process, the negotiations, the discussion between the sides, but also get on with it in the sense of building the states of... the institutions of the state. concluding or completing the task of institution building, capacity building in preparation for statehood. that is important under any
6:09 am
scenario. that's how i look at this. regardless of how the political process fares-- something which the president was just talking about-- we definitely need to... we palestinians need to do the best we can to create the institutions of the state. i happen to believe that statehood being an objective of the political process, getting there, the process of getting there would reinforce the political process the president was talking about. i think both are required. we need the political process to produce... to bring about an end to occupation. we need to make maximum effort to build our own state in a way that reinforces the chances of the political process delivering what it has to deliver. >> rose: okay. who stands in the way of that? >> well, i go back to the requirements for success. elements that really have to be foe t focus of any serious effort to get that political
6:10 am
process started in a credible way. requirements that have been long standing for way too long. obligations that both sides-- the palestinian side and the israeli side-- have taken up going back to 2003. the context of the road map to peace. important documents, where we undertook to do certain things, the israelis undertook to do certain things. it's about time that we started to see deliverables. we tried to do the best we could certainly the beginning of 2007. and we have come a long way in implementing our obligations which we involve around enhancing our capacity to govern ourselves in all areas of governance, including special security. on the israeli side, i regret to tell you, that none of those obligations have been fulfilled. beginning with the freeze of settlement activity, but also including such important actions
6:11 am
like commitments like stopping military incursions on areas under our control. it is very important for us to begin to see action consistent with the need to see those only gigss fulfilled. they're there for a reason, because they actually are related in a direct try the objective, to the deliverable of the political process, which is ending the occupation, having an independent, viable palestinian state. it is obvious as to why that has to be a freeze. a palestinian state is going to emerge precisely where settlements continue to be built and settlements continue to expand. so it stands to reason that there has to be a stop to all of this. >> rose: two questions, then. why did the israelis do it? they clearly want... or do you believe they clearly want to see a successful palestinian state that will be able to live in
6:12 am
peace side by side with israel? do you think that's what they want? >> that has... that's what needs to happen. and i personally do not really spend too much time speculating on intentions. i take at face value that which is said. there's a requirement that, you know, in order to bring this conflict to an end, that is a matter of international consensus. another state has to emerge. the state of israel has been there since 1948. another state has to emerge alongside the state of israel in order to bring this conflict to an end. in order for there to be lasting settlements, and a fair one. that's the state of palestine. that's international consensus on this issue. what is really important is to get on with it. the government of israel has stated that it accepts that notion. the current government. what is really important is to
6:13 am
actually establish that the government of israel means with what it says when it actually said that they're committed to two state solution. >> rose: so what would be evidence of that for you? >> precisely what i said. >> rose: stop settlements. >> begin to implement those obligations that are... by the way. >> rose: but let me just tick them off for you or you tick them off for me. stop settlement growth, whether it's existing growth of existing settlements or new settlements. stop it and do not... >> that's kach lullly the language included in the road map. that's precisely what it said. >> rose: two... >> stop incursions into areas under palestinian control. by that i mean the israeli army into where our security forces have deployed. >> rose: how often does that happen? >> i have to say less often than it used to these days, which is good. that's progress. but what is important is for there to be complete stoppage. that's the way it used to be up until spring of 2000 the.
6:14 am
since then, the israel army has been going into palestinian authority controlled areas. that has got to stop. >> rose: why has it been less in your judgment? >> security conditions, there's no question, have improved due to what we have been able to do, deploying our forces in those areas. so much so that actually there's a great deal of calm. what is the real importance now is if there are there to be complete stop to this military activity by the israelis. actually, you know, continuation by israeli forces at a time when we have established and demonstrated capacity in ways that have established law and order cannot but undermine our effort. i'm not really here talking about the operation of risk associated with the israeli army going into our areas, but i'm
6:15 am
talking about the loss of credibility. what happens while we are undermining our own credibility in the eyes of our own public when they see that in our own presence, our own areas, israelis.... >> rose: you're saying israelis make incursions into palestinian territory. it brings question about your authority and power with your own people? >> absolutely. because, you know, remember, what this is about, what it should be about is an exercise where we summon all the powers we have in a positive constructive way, creating positive facts on the ground, including demonstrating capacity to govern ourselves, providing the most basic services to our people: security and law and order. it is important for this to be and to be seen as an effort... as part of an effort to end the occupation, not making it work better or to beautify it. so consistent with that, palestinian people need to begin to see action by the government
6:16 am
of israel consistent with rolling back the occupation on the way to ending it. if, notwithstanding all that we have been able to do since 2007, there is no significant change in israeli behavior, people will going to begin to wonder-- and with reason-- as to what this is about. >> rose: and if they do, are they more likely to listen to hamas than... >> yeah, unless people begin to see the political process deliver, you're absolutely right. for sure. >> rose: speak to that. is there a competition in a... beyond even that we know for the hearts and minds of palestinians between fatah and the palestinian authority and hamas? >> there is, and we are in that sense no different from any other nation where there is political pluralism and competition. and, you know, the idea here is to really go out and do the best we can delivering to the people in the hope that they will see what you do not only as a
6:17 am
program of action but in terms of actions, in terms of delivery, in terms of achievements. they will see that response to their needs. >> rose: and that's the reason you put such emphasis on governance in part? >> absolutely. >> rose: show to the palestinian people we can have within our own control... >> you know, this is very important, what we are trying to do. this is... once again, this is about ending the occupation. this is about freedom for our people. it is a major understood taking, major. but it requires more than anything else the will to succeed. you know, the belief that we can accomplish things. more than four decades of occupation do bad things to you, including loss of faith in your capacity to do things. by virtue of what we have been able to accomplish since 2007, in addition to having succeeded in delivering basic services to
6:18 am
our people, i think something else happened that is very important, and that is a sense of empowerment that we, indeed, can do these things. that's hugely important and i think it's a political element of the overall approach to governments, to state-building that i believe when we get to where we're going it will be because this approach to governance and to getting there will have succeeded. >> rose: so if the israelis come to you while they're here in the united nations and prime minister net you says to... benjamin netanyahu says to all in the room, he says "we're prepared to move forward in this but show me that you can in a sense exercise authority within your we withdrew from gaza before i was prime minister, look what happened." >> part of the reason what happened in gaza happened.... >> rose: you couldn't control gaza. >> yeah.
6:19 am
part of the reason why that happened-- and this is really not to absolve all sense of responsibility for what happens because after all, you know, what happened in gaza represents a failure on the part of the authority, there's no question about that. but part of the reason why it happened is, you know, the nature, the men nantz, withdrawing from gaza, it happened unilaterally. it was called by the israeli government yuan laal rat disengagement. they did it without engagement with us. when that happens, it does not really leave the palestinian authority... it did not leave the palestinian authority.... >> rose: it was not a negotiated process. it was just "we're out of here." >> they pretty much left and threw the key over the fence, more or less. you know, "we'll do things this way." you do not leave the palestinian authority with much in the eyes of the people for having really
6:20 am
getting to the point to get the israelis to withdraw from gaza. so the authority did not get the lift out of this that was necessary politically. but, you know, i'm not someone will shy ever away from admitting our own failures. you know, the authority did not build the way it should have given many things. i mean, the context in which we were operating was never ideal, continues to be not so. i think we should have done better. we should have done better but the key lesson out of that experience is unilateralism in the way that israel withdrew from gaza is not the way to go. >> rose: well, you have to respect of the israelis and so does president abbas have the respect of the israelis. if they could choose people to negotiate with, they'd choose you and him. >> you know, the issue and the challenge before all of us is actually to move from saying
6:21 am
things to actually doing them. >> rose: right. >> and that's the strength of our program. basically what it is that we are trying to do when we say we need to complete the task of state building within the coming two years. this is our initiative. we need to be proactive. this is our response to people's need for freedom and independence. >> rose: so the granting of state lood will be anti-climatic. you will already have a functioning state. >> that's exactly the idea. that's exactly what we're trying to do, to create enough positives on the ground consistent to statehood so that it will not be difficult for anyone around the world looking at us to conclude that we indeed have a state. >> rose: so the world would respond to that first of all. >> that's what we hope will happen. >> rose: united states, your arab neighbors and the israelis. >> absolutely. you notice the strength of this whole thing is that it's positive. it's about building things. we're talking about building a state. building the institutions of the
6:22 am
state. building to a statehood. it's a positive most constructive agenda and that's essential really. >> rose: what brought you to this construct of what was necessary to happen? how did you get to that place? >> you know, it is with conviction that under any condition, regardless of adversity, first you have to do the best you can. conditions can be propitious and not so propitious, but, you know, that does not absolve you of the responsibility of having to do the best you can under any set of sishlg circumstances. it's a challenge. and i think that's the process by which we're turning this into a process that's inspiring. you really need to inspire people. once again, after four decades of occupation, a long four decades of occupation, you need to really have more than the engineering sense of the technocratic knowledge or the technical know how. you need to spirit.
6:23 am
fortunately what we were talking about is a positive, most constructive spirit. one that really actually is capable of winning the support and sympathy of the international community in furtherance of what we're trying to accomplish. >> rose: if you do that, are you convinced that you can win not the leadership necessarily but those people who voted for hamas and who support hamas to create some kind of united effort? >> i believe so. and, in fact, i believe that one of the reasonss that the political process produced the outcome it did on the presidency going back to 2006 is the failure of the political process to produce an outcome consistent with freedom and independence and all. it was 13 years after oslo the time those elections happened and the fact that the political process had not fanned out in the way it should have or could
6:24 am
have certainly contributes to that outcome. success either is important therefore to change minds. but you asked me what really causes you to think this way. >> rose: how do you get there? >> i think it really is like many things, other things in life, you really have to give it your all, i believe, in whatever it is you do. this is my attitude. you do the best you can given objectives that you state and make people aware of and then you go out and try to actually do those things in the best way you know how. >> rose: and how can... let's take one first, the united states. apart from whatever influence, using the word influence rather than force or pressure or anything else, influence with israel to do the kinds of things you're saying, no intrusion, pull back, no growth of settlements, how can the united states help the effort you have outlined? what can the president do who has some political capital in
6:25 am
the region, yes? >> politically, i think insist on accountability in the sense that, you know, people have to live up to the commitments they make. i think this makes sense. >> rose: how does he do it? give the president some freed a vice. how do you do that: insist on accountability? what's the leverage and how do you exercise the leverage? >> power of persuasion is not a small thing in this business. particularly given the history of this conflict and what it entails in terms of the tragedy, loss of life and destruction. i think the president has definitely the power and ability to be persuasive on this. >> rose: do you think israelis have the ability to... and the will to listen and respond? if... go ahead. >> i think that's true. that is why i say accountability
6:26 am
is important. i think there's nothing that can provide the process with the kind of strength that is necessary. there's nothing that can do this better than to say to the principles, to the parties in this conflict "hey, listen, this is what you set out to do, this is what you have agreed to do at such a point in time. you really need to do that." the key reason why my own estimation the process has not so far produced what it should have is because of commitments were not fulfilled. you know, talk is... i mean, on domestic political scene in washington, it's accountability, the importance of accountability. this applies equally to international policy. i think it's very important for there to be much accountability in connection with this political process than has so far been exercised, expected, or demanded. i think there's power to this. and you go out to people and say "this is what this is about." the emergence of an independent,
6:27 am
viable palestinian state living side by side in peace and harm fwhi the state of israel is not only palestinian influenced. it's also israeli influenced but also, as president obama had said, national interests to the united states. >> rose: oh, it's clear interest of the united states. >> that's what i said and i think.... >> rose: every president of the united states has said that, every one of them. >> but then we need to go out and try to make it happen. and say the way to do it, this is a political process sfor there to be actually implementation. >> rose: but it is said that the president is disappointed that arab neighbors have not done all that they might have done since he's been president. >> well, if you're referring here to the arab peace initiative and what that framework is about, most definitely arab nations have expressed the willingness, readiness in the context of that
6:28 am
initiative. >> rose: the return of the borders, engage in normal relationss bilateral relations with israel. >> yes, absolutely. and that definitely is on the table and it has been since 2002 and provides a very good framework to really end this conflict and provide scope for normal and peaceful coexistence. >> rose: you have to be first of all focused on palestinians as you have outlined what you're doing. you've got make sure you do your thing because... take care of what you know, have power over it before you try to spend your entire life influencing those things you might not have power over. having said that, what is it... what is it you think about the israeli psyche today, about ideas like greater israel, ideas of a jewish state? and what does that do to the dialogue? >> you know, before we get to it
6:29 am
i believe we all need to get both the israelis and the palestinians. the first line has to be crossed and namely... a certain threshold has to be crossed. a line. given the evolution of this conflict and where we are today, prior to the genesis of it, each side has its own narrative of the genesis of the conflict, how it started, the nature of it, et cetera. >> rose: who was there. >> until and unless there is a recognition that palestinians need to have their own state and that the this state should happen, you know, this conflict is not really going to end. >> rose: do you believe the majority of israeli citizens want that? >> you know, i believe that is true. this is when the process began. it was implicit in the oslo
6:30 am
accords that the palestinian state was going to emerge. it was not explicitly stated. you know, going back to the declaration of mutual recognition of 1993, it was not mentioned. it was presumed that there was going to be this palestinian state, for sure. in any event, the political process was not implicit about this, beginning certainly in 2002 when it became a matter of international consensus that an independent state of palestine has to emerge. >> rose: what do you make of some of the conditions that prime minister benjamin netanyahu has defined as essential to the creation of a palestinian state. a disarmed palestinian state, the absence of... >> why not implement those conditions and requirements that we both have already agreed to and committed to before overloading this further. i mean, what i have been talking
6:31 am
about in terms of requirements and obligations that we accept... we palestinians accepted and the israeli accepted, the road map obligations. then we have to see those implemented. and why do we introduce into the debate more elements of conditions. >> rose: but he's introduced it into the debate, has he not? >> well, he's trying to introduce them, but it doesn't really mean that this is acceptable. or it should be acceptable. i would say there are enough conditions as it is. let's see those conditions implemented and let us make the distinction between what really needs to go into this process and outcomes. >> rose: there any talk behind... in the corridors of the united nations and wherever you talk... you're a voice that people listen to that the israelis may say, listen, if you can do this, if you can do this, you'll get us much, much closer. if you can show the capacity to
6:32 am
govern and create a state before it becomes a state, do you get any resonance from the israeli side not articulated publicly by them? >> to tell you the truth, in an important sense, i'm driven by this power to really want to do things and to establish that we can do all of these things for all the right reasons. at the same time, it's very important for them to get recognitions of the needs for palestinians to see deliverables and not to continue to be expected to show things and demonstrate things. you know, we really need to begin to see political deliverables associated with this effort. >> rose: do i hear you saying, look, we're not trying to meet any requirements as israelis, we're trying to show who we are as a people. >> absolutely. and this is the best way.... >> rose: we're not satisfying them, we're satisfying ourselves. >> the best assurance that you
6:33 am
can give to israelis is when they see that what you're doing... you're doing what you're doing because it is in your best interest and in the best interest of your own people this is the most fundamental source of reassurance or assurance that can be provided. to expect your neighbors to do things and to continue to demonstrate engaging and acting of demonstration of good will toward you can be reassuring for a while, but we need to think more about it and more deeply. you will be... you are much more likely to be assured if you come to the belief that your neighbor is acting in his best interest and in doing so that happens to be consistent with your own interest. >> rose: exactly. >> that's what we're trying to do. >> rose: but you do need donor nations and the world community to understand your economic viability.
6:34 am
>> sure. and we do want to be economically viable. we have so far needed a lot of external international support, including from this country which has contributed generously to the cause of the institutional... institution building. we need to really get to the point where we have greater reliance on our own resources. and that's the kind of vision we have for the palestinian state. we can get there if the economy begins to function better. >> rose: and on that point, are the israelis willing to step forward, in your judgment, and do things in terms of release or funds or whatever it might be? >> it's not release of funds. our own funds under the trading arrangement that we have with israel, the economic agreement that we have, israel collects tax revenues, palestinian tax revenues, points of entry. that money flows now on a regular basis, it's palestinian money. now what we really want from the israelis in addition to taking
6:35 am
those steps which pertain to the viability of the political process is to actually begin to take actions in a way that would lead us-to-a critical mass of change on the ground. the removal of restrictions. not only physical but functional restrictions. permanent requirements or what have you. for them to be sensed that, you know, this is about ending the occupation. measures are being... the occupation measures or the occupation regime is beginning to be rolled back. you know, we really need to get to this point and very quickly. >> rose: thank you for coming. it is a fascinating time right now and to see you again, it was a pleasure for us. we will talk tomorrow night with the defense minister of israel, ehud barack, but i thank you very much for coming and we continue the dialogue here and hopefully in the region as well. >> thank you so much. >> rose: salam fayyad the prime
6:36 am
minister of the palestinian authority. coming up next, rich cohen has written a new book called "israel is real," with a look at some new ideas with from the israeli perspective. but first a look ahead this week at conversations with two remarkable basketball players in separate interviews. they are lebron james and chris pull. >> oh, my goodness! what a look away by chris paul! >> rose: has every part of the dream been realized for you? >> i'm almost there. >> rose: one big thing. >> one more dream. >> rose: n.b.a. championship? >> absolutely. you got it. >> rose: and last year when you didn't get it, how did that hit you? >> it hurt. any time i set out a goal and, you know, i feel like it's... i can reach it and it's like right there and it doesn't happen, it hurts. it hurts. >> rose: but tell me more. >> we've got another season and we're looking forward to this one now. i've got a teammate that's going to help me get there.
6:37 am
>> rose: by the name of shaq? >> by the name of shaq. >> rose: what does he add? >> he adds a low pulse presence that i haven't had. >> rose: so you go down the paint, you've got a place you can drop it off? >> absolutely. >> rose: and even if i don't go down the paint, i can also give him the ball and let him go to work also. >> rose: and you're not worried about him being pushed out of the way. >> if anyone can push shaq out of the way, find him for me. (laughs) >> competition is amazing. people always ask me what is it like to play in the n.b.a. and you know everyone always talks about how they love college basketball because they feel guys in the n.b.a. take nights off and things like that. and from playing in the n.b.a. i can speak from experience, there are no nights off. you're playing against the most finely tuned athletes in the world night in and night out and if you don't bring your "a" game you will be embarrassed. you will be embarrassed, especially in our league. so i know there's so many different things now in that when i first came in it was about how fast can i do it?
6:38 am
how fast can i do it? now it's about how efficient can i be. >> rose: how efficient? >> yes. that's the difference that separates the greats is that my rookie year i may have taken five shots and made two. now you need to make three or four out of five. >> rose: and you're shooting fur five out of five. >> exactly. exactly. >> rose: rich cohen is here. he's a writer, a contributing editor ativanty fair and rolling stones magazine. in 2006, he published "sweet and low" the story of his grandfather's invention of the artificial sweetener sweet 'n low. his new book is called "israel is real" an obsessive quest to understand the jewish nation and its history. i'm pleased to have him here at this table. welcome. >> thank you. >> rose: first let's start with the title just because it's provocative. >> well, when i was a kid there was a big craze for hebrew t-shirts in my circle anyway,
6:39 am
the north shore chicago. and the most famous said coca-cola in hebrew in cursive, e looked like hebrew and it was an american swear word up side down and one were shirts that said "israel is real." it was a simple play on words but it had meaning. if you think about it, israel was an idea from 2000 years from the destruction of the second temple until 1948 and in our own time it's become real again so it's said a bit miraculously but it depends on the audience because for some people, of course, the israel is too real. i thought that phrase on that t-shirt encapsulated the whole story. >> rose: the fact that israel becomes geography means what? has meant what? >> the early zionists had the idea that they were going to cure jews of the jewish condition as they saw in the europe and it had all these unintended consequences which is when you had property, right? you can lose property. it's like that man with the house has a house to lose. and a lot of jewish power
6:40 am
through 2000 years came from all the things that a lot of christian ideas come from, which is statelessness, the meek shall inthert earth, sort of being universal and not particular, not a flag. >> rose: and an idea in your mind rather than a... >> yeah. yeah. and it's portable. so whenever you have ten jews praying or reading the torah you have jerusalem, now you have jerusalem and you've got to protect it. >> rose: therefore protect it becomes the critical question. >> right. and therefore you have a nuclear israel which, like a hundred years ago you couldn't imagine a nuclear bomb, you couldn't imagine a jewish state with the most advanced weapon it is world has ever known. >> rose: how did that happen? >> well, i think basically... in a weird way, the idea of an army was really important to israel. it wasn't just an army to defend the nation. early on, the idea was that that jews should fight to defend themselves. they were seen in europe as having a history in european ghettos and they became sort of unphysical. you know, in their heads instead
6:41 am
of in their bodies. that was the idea. you can argue whether or not it was true or not, but that was the idea of the sort of diaspora jew who lived in exile. and the early zionists very much wanted jews who were physical, who defended themselves. so having an army became more than just about defending the country, it became a statement of the new kind of jew that was going to come out of the second world war. >> rose: when israel was created it was a triumph of zionism. >> yes. >> rose: where is zionism today? >> well, it's a strange thing. the zionists were kind of revolutionaries and you can sort of think about it. they were part of all the other revolutionary movements of the 20th century that we know. except it succeeded and it was basically good and now you have this state. but now so much effort was put into building the state, now it's sort of like zionism has kind of grown old, you know? and young people don't want to be... consider themselves zionists, even jews. and they have to move from zionism to being israelis and that's a really tricky thing and
6:42 am
that's the thing people are having some trouble with. so in a way it's kind of an older ideology that needs to reinvent itself. >> rose: now you have to critical element raised by... certainly the most specific way by prime minister neten ya hue that everybody has to recognize israel as a jewish state. >> right. >> rose: where did that come have? >> well, it was always supposed to be a jewish state. >> rose: why does it all of a sudden have to become a negotiating start >> because one of the strategies of arabs who don't think israel should survive is to say okay, you're a democracy, let's have a democracy. if you want to control the territory between the mediterranean sea and the jordan river, then let's have a vote. >> rose: that's the one-state idea. >> yeah, that's one state. let's have one man; one vote. ultimately there are 20 or 30 years, jews will lose power, lose the army, lose the nuclear weapons, lose everything and it's the end of israel. the problem is you can't really have a jewish democracy. so this is the fix that israelis
6:43 am
are in, which is.... >> rose: you can't have a jewish democracy meaning... >> you can have a jewish democracy like america is a christian country, you know? most of the people are christian and it's got christian values. but we don't say that it's a country for christians, you know? we say it's a country for everybody. >> rose: there an islamic democracy in that context? >> no. i don't think there is. and that's... the weird thing about israel is that israel does live by a different standard. i can't go to mecca, right? i'm not allowed because i'm jewish. and there's places i can never be a citizen and if you don't want to be in syria, you know and if you're a jewish n egypt 50 years ago you're forced out of egypt and then you're probably in the united states or israel. but the point is that israel has to live by a different standard, you know? because it's got an ideal and the ideal is kind of the golden rule. >> rose: how do you think the present political dilemma is going to work itself out? >> one state is just code word for no israel. you might call it israel, but it
6:44 am
won't be israel as we know it. >> rose: because the demographics are simply against it? >> exactly. and probably what would happen in the long term is what happened in lebanon. it would be a nightmare, okay? so basically what israel's in the process of doing is having to undo, i think, what they did after 1967, which was take control of large arab population centers. and that's what aerial sharon was doing. you know? ariel sharon moved the israeli settlements out of gaza. i think he next would have moved them out of the west bank. >> rose: because he foresaw the dilemmas? >> i was there for the gaza withdrawal and i spoke to a lot of the settlers and they viewed sharon as a traitor. he started the settlements now he turned on them. if you look at ariel sharon who's loved and vilified, he was a guy with one goal and the goal was to protect israel and make sure israel prospered and he supported the settlements as long as he thought they were keeping israel safe. the moment he recognized the settlements were, in fact,
6:45 am
putting israel in danger he wanted to pull them back. >> rose: where was ole nert that? spl >> he starts on the far right, which is is israel should be something like it was in the bible. some of these people have a saying which is "both sides of the jordan river." there was a moment where israeli tax collectors in the ancient world went to both sides of the jordan river and his family sort of a right wing family. but i think when you get in the position of prime minister or start getting near there and you look at the numbers and you look at the reality of the next 20 years you just have a change of heart and you... because it's not responsible to sort of live in that dream that israel's going to be able to control all this territory. >> rose: so how far do you think benjamin netanyahu will go in terms of undoing what happened after the '67 war. net you. >> i don't know if it will be him or if it will be somebody else. but if he doesn't do it his government will fall and somebody else will do it and the questions will it happen? and the question is will it happen with the israelis taking the lead or doing it themselves
6:46 am
or will it just... the walls start to cave in, which is something that a good leader's got to foresee a generation ahead. >> rose: famously they said palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. can you make that argument about israel in some ways in terms of missing an opportunity to have had some kind of peace that would have made it more secure than it is today he? >> yeah, look. there's a really fascinating things which the first israeli leaders who are famous, moshe diane, ben-gurion, these guys didn't want the west bank and they didn't want jerusalem and those holy places, they thought that was the past and that would drive israelis crazy. and the '67 war in which israel was provoked into preempting, there was a moment where they only took old jerusalem at the very end of the war, the last day. and there was people that didn't want to do it. finally it was like you can't be that close to the core of jewish history and not take that final step. and in a way that was the moment 1967, which was the most euphoric moment, also they would
6:47 am
kernel of all the current problems which is israelis were tempted by history into sort of losing sight of the reality, which is there's they're a small people that have a nation because their goals have sort of been modest and the idea they were going to create a new kind of nation and a new kind of history. my mother used to have an expression "out of the frying pan into another kind of frying pan." and the idea was to sort of take jews out of the caldron of europe and bring them the middle east-- at least the jews that came from europe. but instead they sort of went into this other older history, which is the history of the bible. and we know how that ended. that ended with 2,000 years of no home. so that means the pragmatic early zionist leader to save israel from itself. that's what i believe. >> rose: and do you believe that if sharon had stayed in power and reasonable health that was achievable? >> yeah. i think... i mean, there would have been a big fight. >> rose: he would have been prepared to stand up to settlers
6:48 am
and everything else and he would have been able to say "i've been a warrior so therefore i understand national security and there have you have to trust me on this." >> right. there was a "nixon goes to element" china... china element for sure. sharon fought in the war of independence and he pulled the settlements out of gaza. in his life... i thought it was fascinating that jews haven't lived that kind of life since biblical times. he had a biblical life. he's still alive, we forget that. but he had authority and he was a man of great accomplishment and did really bad things, too. he was almost like a figure out of the bible. and he had the authority.... >> rose: lebanon primarily? >> yeah, i'm thinking of lebanon. and he invented a lot of the israeli way of fighting terrorism which you can argue that was successful but it was successful but created longer-term problems. >> rose: so where do you think this is... i mean how do you think this will... in your lifetime?
6:49 am
>> i think... see, one thing people think about me is that i'm too pessimistic. i'm basically a young guy and they don't like the idea that a young guy that obviously loves israel a great deal, has family, is pessimistic. >> rose: about? >> the future of israel. but i'm not really pessimistic. but i think one thing the early zionists had is they were a it is a trow fists. believed the worst was possible. that made them foresee the holocaust when no one else did. israelis have to look at the situation realistically and sort of say what's the worst situation? and the worst situation is for israel is no israel. and how do we avoid the? the way to avoid that, i think, is to disentangle the israeli pop nation the muslim population. the jewish population and sort of separate themselves and that's what sharon was doing. and the problem now is a leader strong enough to face up politically to his own situation in israel with the settlers and everything. because ultimately, i'm not the first person to say it, the
6:50 am
settlements endanger israel and corrode israel and make israel lose the original mission which was never about land, you know, it was about people and about saving jews and letting jews have full lives, not about holding ancient holy places. >> rose: and do you believe that the palestinians if they were offered that opportunity would be satisfied? >> no. i really don't. >> rose: so you're going to live for... regardless of the settlement, regardless of whatever solution or settlement there is, you will continue to have the aspirations sometimes expressed by hamas? >> right. but i do believe the idea that if you could have a generation two with the lower temperature, with less war, with less killing on both sides.... >> rose: and economic possibilities on both sides. >> yes, you can have a generation of people because i do sort of think that people have more in common than they do different. >> rose: there some model in south africa or ireland to... >> i don't know. i think it's a unique situation because you have two people where both sides are wrong and
6:51 am
both sides are right. you know, you have equal claims. and the idea is, you know, is... is it going to be like... are we going back to the ancient world here? >> rose: if you put the kind of settlement that was essentially at thabo coming out of camp david, would the majority of israeli citizens-- in your judgment-- support it? >> yes, absolutely. i mean, israel has a messedup political system whereby its proportional representation. which means that every government has to build a government out of all these little coalitions. so you have these parties of just settlers, for example, with one issue. and they could pull out of the government at any time and collapse the government. and it's... they've tried to fix it before, but it's paralysis and it's causing them a lot of problems. >> rose: what's your assessment of benjamin netanyahu. people >> people forget that benjamin netanyahu it was guy who did the
6:52 am
deal on hebron, for example. and net you. and hebron... ariel sharon said if we had a normal country you wouldn't get in a car when you landed in tel aviv and drive to jerusalem, you get a car and drive to hebron because that's the first ancient car... temple of the jewish people. i think benjamin netanyahu is a politician and basically pragmatic and he loves his country and he wants to sort of stay on top politically but do what's right and i think he will ultimately do what's right to protect israel and if he doesn't his government will collapse. >> rose: do you think that includes bombing iran? >> i don't know. they're so noisy about it that it makes me think they're not going do it. it's very unisraeli to be so noisy about something. you know, it's like in iraq it just kind of... you turned on the t.v. and they had bombed the nuclear reactor and entebbe when they rescued israeli hostages in entebbe. it's all very quiet. the idea of making a lot of noise means they don't want military, they want somebody else to come in and do i want
6:53 am
diplomatically. >> rose: has anything in writing this book, thinking about these issues caused you to change anything in terms of your understanding or your own meaning? >> completely. i was just talking about. this it's like i didn't go... if you would have told me two years ago that i'd write a book with these sort of conclusions i wouldn't have believed it, you know? but sort of going to israel, meeting with the generals and the politicians who really were responsible for the victories in '67 and the yom kippur war, meeting with these guys and hearing their fears and their worries, meeting with the.... >> rose: so what you've all been expressing is what they reflected to you? >> right. and they feel... and these are the guys, they're heroes. for jews they're heroes. these are the guys if you talk to them... they were very depressed when i spoke to them because they felt that israel had made a mistake after 1967, which is it was like the classic act of hubris where they felt they could have everything. they felt they could have a jewish democracy and they could
6:54 am
also have hebron. and basically they couldn't have both. >> rose: that's what some say about the invasion of iraq. >> of iraq? >> rose: yeah. >> yeah. >> rose: that you can have everything. you know, you can do this and create a model democracy in the heart of the middle east and all of those kinds of things. >> rose: i remember speaking to an israeli friend of mine who was a commando at entebbe and i talked to him about iraq before and i said... he said "it will be easy, it's bomb, bomb, bomb, go, go, go, it's a mission and then you're snuck lebanon for five years." >> rose: (laughs) smart guy. >> yes. >> rose: entebbe where was benjamin netanyahu's brother was killed. >> that's right. >> rose: so you talk to these guys who they're in major leadership positions during '67. >> right. >> rose: and they said to you with the we are facing an alternative that will do great danger to the idea of israel. >> right. >> rose: and in order to save that, we have to undo what we did after '67. >> right. >> rose: that's the conclusion. >> that's what they felt.
6:55 am
>> rose: and that's the central point of this book? >> yeah. i think so, yeah. and i think there sort of needs to be sort of a moment of reckoning for israelis and regardless of what the intentions of palestinians is a. the palestinians always use the israelis as an excuse and the israelis always use the palestinians as an excuse. it doesn't matter what their intentions are because what's ultimately at stake is israel's future and they've got to take care of it themselves. >> rose: do you believe that those same people believe that things are being carried out in the name of security that they believe is doing some damage to... i don't think >> i don't think they think it's security. you know, when you look at the settlements, for example, you have a lot of soldiers protecting very few people and in dangerous positions. ariel sharon started the settlements really for military reasons, not for ideological reasons. he naught you put settlements.... >> rose: well, that's security, that's national security. >> right. but over time it's like sort of the ideology, the religious
6:56 am
scionists. the erlly zionists were secular, they were not religious. and religion zionists came in and attached value to the place. to slarn... i mean, he talked about the place but it was really about the military, it was about thickening israel in its skinny places and putting jewish towns on roads which israel had been invaded. but suddenly where you have an issue where you have 2000 missle in lebanon and those roads don't matter anymore and security not helpful. >> rose: what where do you think rabin would have been if he had... not in terms of position but in terms of the ideas you would have expressed? >> i they bean had the same realization early, you know, which is why he was a great leader. i think he had it ten years earlier than sharon, which is sort of israel has to act now to secure its own future and its own future can not be ruling the palestinians. and the problem is there's some group of palestinians that don't want peace with israel for whatever reason. one of which is they might
6:57 am
prefer a one-state solution in which case the thingñi to do is just wait. >> rose: so they don't want a solution, then? >> they want another solution. arafat called it the human bomb, you know? >> rose: that's demographics. >> demographic bomb. which is we'll just outprocreate them and it will take care of itself. >> rose: there's also this. you've said the following, that you like this. if you have sapling in your hand and they say to you the messiah has come, finish planting the sapling and then neat messiah. >> i like that first of all as somebody newly moved to the country. so i had taken an interest in gardening but also the whole idea which is one thing about jewish history is people say well, the guy in times square says the world is coming to an end and jews realize the world has come to an end many, many times before and the problem is the world after it ends keeps going and you have to figure out how to live in it. >> rose: israel is real, an obsessive... you chose that word too? >> i felt like writing the book was obsessive and i felt it was
6:58 am
like a little bit of gonzo history of israel. >> rose: "on obsessive quest to understand the jewish nation and its history." rich cohen, thank you. >> thank you. >> rose: thank you for joining us. see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
6:59 am